It was a difficult hearing for Bill Mastro. Today, both sides were hoping that the court would agree to a 30-month maximum sentence for his role in allegedly manipulating auctions and doctoring sports memorabilia.
The judge had other plans.
Judge Guzman had previously expressed concern over the small size of the sentence and asked the government to file a brief explaining the benefits the government received from the plea. The judge's main concern was that Mastro was not going to provide any testimony in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The government's brief was not persuasive, because today, the judge threw out the plea.
I happened to be in the courtroom today. It was brutal.
Right before the hearing started, the court's clerk brought a letter to both sides that the judge had received. It was from someone who alleged he was a previous customer of Mastro, and believed that he had been defrauded.
The judge explained that he did not know if anything in the letter could be substantiated, so he did not consider it evidence. He did think, however, it should be brought to both sides' attention.
The judge then announced he was not agreeing to the proposed plea.
The room was shocked.
After a bit, Mastro's defense attorney asked if the judge was throwing out the plea because of the letter. The judge responded, no, it was because of his previous concerns.
The judge then set some future dates, which basically tells everyone to get ready for trial.
From today's hearing, I think it's fair to assume that judge wants more, a lot more out of Mastro if a plea is going to be accepted. Given what happened today, he might not want a plea. He might want a full trial. That could send a real message to those who commit fraud in the sports memorabilia industry.
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